Two important things should be known about frontier fiction. First,
it's a wide-open genre for new writers. Second, it's not limited to
Westerns. Paul Clayton's name may start becoming more and more familiar
to booksellers and readers, on par with Terry C. Johnston's. Calling
Crow Nation concludes the three-book chronicle of the life of
Calling Crow, a chief of the Coosa people in the Floridas in the late
1500s. His story is a unique one in the genre, for there are few novels available
concerning the plight of Native Americans in the Southeast at the time of
the early Spanish claims on that area.
Calling Crow has overcome great obstacles to reach his position of
leadership among the Coosa, including a period spent as a Spanish slave.
Now the respected leader of a small village, he must confront Spanish
slavers once again to save his people from a fate whose horrors he has
experienced first hand. The Spanish have allied with a group of Timucua
natives whose leader Mantua will become Calling Crow's most deadly enemy.
Armed with muskets provided by the Spanish, the Timucua attack
enemy tribes, capturing new slaves for the Spanish and gaining ascendancy
among the other peoples of the area. Mantua and Calling Crow meet again
and again as Calling Crow tries to keep his people from becoming stepping
stones on Mantua's path to glory and power. Calling Crow sees only one
chance at evading Mantua's grasp: the Coosa must somehow obtain muskets
to level the field of battle.
Calling Crow frees Englishman Samuel Newman from Timucua captors. A
merchant looking to establish trade with the colonies in the New Lands,
Samuel is on the run from duplicitous Spanish occupiers. Grateful to
Calling Crow and enamored of the chief's daughter, Samuel reluctantly
agrees to trade Coosa deerskins for the muskets the tribe needs to
successfully defend against the Spanish-supplied Timucua. Samuel leaves
two ship's boys with the village as collateral, and Calling Crow and his
right-hand man depart for England aboard Samuel's ship.
From that point, the story takes many twists and turns. The Spaniards
from the New Lands catch up with Samuel's ship and take the Coosa's partial
payment of skins. Shortly after landing in England, Calling Crow and Red Feather are sold to a traveling
fair by Samuel's moody brother John, then separated when a badly beaten
and weakened Calling Crow is resold as a slave to a bordello. Calling
Crow will eventually make his way back home, but his budding friendship
with Samuel will be severely tested. He will have a difficult time
protecting his people from the Spanish and the Timucua, but with the
respect of those he leads and with the aid of his brave young son Swordbrought,
Calling Crow will have a fighting chance of saving everything he holds
Calling Crow Nation is a sprawling novel
crammed with significant story events and chock full of interesting
little historical tidbits. A vital part of the story is something
altogether little known -- the fact of enslavement of indigenous
Americans by the Europeans who would claim the land for their own.
In addition to attracting frontier fiction lovers looking for another
author, Clayton's work should appeal to readers of the William Sarabande and
Kathleen and Michael Gear prehistory series interested
in examining the more recent fates of Native Americans.